New car sales buoyant despite financial woe

Stephen Duff in his Andersons Bay Rd Stephen Duff Mitsubishi car yard. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Stephen Duff in his Andersons Bay Rd Stephen Duff Mitsubishi car yard. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The new car market in Dunedin has been ''very buoyant'' as aggressive manufacturers compete for business, car dealer Stephen Duff says.

Mr Duff, of Stephen Duff Mitsubishi, said deals being offered were becoming better and people were looking to upgrade their vehicles.

''With the speed of technology, people want to upgrade. Everything is five-star safety and five-star efficiency and prices are not that much different. That has boosted sales.''

Used car sales were ''reasonably hard'' as they faced competition from online auction sites, he said.

While numbers of vehicles changing hands were up, there were more private-to-private sales going through the internet.

Motor Trade Association annual sales figures showed new vehicle sales topped 100,000 last year for only the third time in 23 years, despite sluggish economic conditions overall.

There were 100,795 new car and commercial vehicle sales last year - up 19%, or 16,155 units, on 2011. It was only the third time since 1989 that new vehicle sales topped 100,000.

New passenger car sales reached their highest level in five years, with 76,871 sold - up 12,852, or 20%, on 2011.

Asked if there was any particular reason that sales had been strong in Dunedin, Mr Duff said the city was ''a little bit off the beaten track'' when it came to sales.

Everyone had been affected by the global financial crisis but Dunedin people were more conservative with managing their debt, he believed.

Dunedin did not suffer the lows of the lows or the highs of the highs, he said.

The rural sector had been receiving good prices for dairy and sheep and the local economy remained based around the rural sector.

''This year will be a slightly better year but it won't be stellar,'' Mr Duff said.

Motor Trade Finances managing director Angus Bradshaw said some of the numbers being talked about needed perspective. He provided the Otago Daily Times with the Financial Services Federation annual motor figures from 2012 which mainly showed increases in the various categories, although the numbers were still not as high as 2003, in one case.

The finance volume for motor vehicle purchases was very low. Some vehicles were being put on to overdrafts and were not being registered as being secured over a property or the vehicle. MTF lending volumes were increasing slowly but it was important to compare the most recent figures with the low point rather than the immediate past period, he said. The low for new-car registrations was 2005, when 54,000 were registered. Last year, 77,000 were registered but that only returned the figure to where it was in 2006.

The low for secured registrations was 2009, with 215,000 registrations. Last year's 232,000 was an improvement but still below the high of 2005 with 365,000 registrations.

Asked about the interest-free periods being offered for motor vehicles, and the dealers offering payments over three years, Mr Bradshaw said someone had to get paid for the finance and the payments came from the manufacturer, distributor or the dealer.

In the case of paying a third over each of three years, it could mean the customer paying the full price of the car, with no discount, and the dealer wearing the finance cost.

The emissions trading legislation for imported cars had cause a slight setback, but Mr Bradshaw said that over the past two or three years, there had always been something affecting the market.

''Everybody gets worried about it. It comes into play but we adjust and get back to normal. When you look back, the end of the world didn't happen,'' he said.

MTA figures showed Toyota again dominated both passenger and commercial vehicle sales, with the introduction of a new Corolla helping the Japanese maker sell 21,620 vehicles, for a 21% market share.

Ford was next with 11,132 sales, (11%) and Holden with 9446 sales (9%).

MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said last year was considerably stronger than predicted.

The commercial market was also dominated by Toyota, with 6628 sales giving it a 28% market share, followed by Ford with 3749 sales (16%) and Nissan with 2703 sales (11%).

Toyota's Hilux ute was the top-selling commercial vehicle, with 4182 sales, followed by the Ford Ranger (2815 sales) and Nissan Navara (2586 sales).

Used import sales were down by 2541 on last year (3%) to 78,311.

Used passenger car sales were well ahead of predictions, with the market quickly adjusting to meet revised exhaust emissions standards, Mr Stronach said.

- dene.mackenzie@odt.co.nz

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